Word of mouth begins at home

I like the new BMW mini, I have driven a few, including the supercharged cooper S, and I like them. They are quick, well equipped and with the BMW brand behind it I assumed they were quite well-built as well.

Then I met a guy who worked for a BMW dealership, he was a mechanic and spent a great deal of time explaining to me in some detail how poorly built the cars actually were and how he was amazed they hadn’t been recalled for various engine problems. Safe to say that damaged my perception of that brand to some degree.

More importantly I share his information with my friends, it spreads, now I have even put it online, and I trust his advice more than most because he is a genuine expert in his field (well, compared to most) and he actually works for the company he is discussing, so he has an intimate knowledge of the product.

Now this is a big problem for brands: brands spend a lot of time and money creating the brand message, now, many brands spend a lot of time monitoring and engaging in online conversation with their communities, advocates and detractors, to understand how their users perceive their brand and discuss it, but here is my problem… WOM BEGINS AT HOME! It doesn’t matter how much your community get excited about a product or how many clever WOM, social media and other campaigns you come up with, if you have your own employees telling all their mates not to buy your products then you might as well not bother.

Your employees should be your core advocates, (and no, I don’t just mean your sales teams!!) they should be as, if not more, excited than anyone else about your new products and services, and it doesn’t matter who: From the CEO to the product managers, marketing and PR to the support staff, they should all be using and advocating your services over it’s competition. If they’re not then you have a work to do, if they are actively telling people NOT to buy your products then you have a big problem!

But there is a challenge…

Here it is: Your employees are often the most qualified to hate your products and tell everyone what is wrong with them. Why? Well they are the most embedded, they are the people who build, market and sell the products, they know where compromises were made, they know where the competition is strong and they are the first to see problems, as they deal with the angry customers, both online, in store and on the telephone. Let’s take the example of my friend the BMW mechanic again: Every day he goes in to work and he spends his day fixing cars, he gets to know the trends, where problems arise and he gets to see angry customers presented with large bills, he may think he has a solution because he can see that washer X is too weak or the positioning of part Y is off, he is frustrated because no one listens to him, so he thinks the designers are idiots (they’re not, but that’s his perception), his frustration is shared in the form of negative WOM.

So what is the solution?

Well it depends on your company but some general points are outlined below:

  • Measure internal WOM, don’t spend all your time and effort on monitoring social media, look internally as well, ask your employees (anonymously) and try using very simple surveys like NPS scoring to avoid overwhelming your internal teams with feedback when all you want is a pulse.
  • Have proper feedback systems in place, let these hidden internal experts, who work on the “front line” spend time with the product managers, tech teams and head office staff, help them to understand the positioning of the product and why it has been made the way it has, get them excited and listen to them, take their feedback and use it!
  • Give them a reason to use your products, big discounts, free if possible, offer them friends and family discounts and referral schemes for sales (give them a damn good reason to use and promote your products)
  • Make sure they see happy customers as well as pissed off ones! – Use the intranets, tools like socialcast, or even bulletin boards to share positive feedback and reward those responsible with tangible prizes (don’t just reward your sales teams for good work!)
  • Involve them in the mission of the company and give them a good, happy working environment! Easier said than done, I know, but a happy employee who understands why they matter is far more likely to be an advocate employee than a detractor employee!

Yes this is all very nice Tom, but where is my ROI?”

well that is an easy one actually! Lets use BMW as an example again, now BMW has around 98,000 employees, so lets say they spent £500k on an internal WOM campaign to improve their companies internal NPS score, they put in place a number of the bullets above and from it just 0.05% of their employees “sold” an additional car on their behalf by advocating their products and, based on experience, the average price of a new BMW is £20k (that is a guess from looking at bmw.co.uk) then in one year that is £980k of additional sales, just in the cars, not to mention finance, servicing etc. And  if you use staff referral and reward schemes or family + friend discounts properly then you can measure a high % of that return very accurately.

But the best bit is that you additionally to the sales you can measure is the increased positive WOM created that spreads through the community and improves brand perception leading to more sales… However this success can be tracked with key KPI’s like internal NPS, which I outlined above. And you can measure pre/post campaign sales uplift.

Anyway that is it! WOM begins at home, don’t forget to measure it and encourage it, it will make you money…

I am not sure if NPS has been used for internal comms at all, but would be keen to find out, any one have any thoughts or case studies?


One response to “Word of mouth begins at home

  1. Pingback: Don’t make your brand a person, people buy from REAL people… | Tom's Ideas

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